LAHORE-Federal Minister for Industries & Production Hammad Azhar on Saturday promised to end unnecessary tax burden on businesses. The federal minister was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. LCCI President presented the address of welcome while Senior Vice President Muhammad Nasir Hameed Khan, Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry, former presidents Mian Misbah-ur-Rehman, Sohail Lashari, Almas Hyder, former senior vice presidents Mian Nauman Kabir, Amjad Ali Jawa, former vice president Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad and Executive Committee members also spoke on the occasion.

The minister said that government wants to reduce the undue burden of taxes to ensure fast growth of trade, industry and economy. He said that economy of Pakistan has taken a remarkable turnaround and economic indicators are portraying a positive picture. Global economy is squeezing at the rate of 4.5 per cent while Indian economy is squeezing over 10% due to COVID-19 but economy of Pakistan is in a positive mode.

Hammad Azhar said that industry of Pakistan is leading the economic revival. 7.5 per cent growth of industrial components has been recorded in September 2020 as compared to this month of last year. He said that demand and consumption of cement and urea fertilizer is at its historic peak. Sales of automobile sector are 43 per cent higher than the previous year. Textile sector was working 24 hours a day even during the Eid holidays. He said that all sectors are showing more sales than the past.

The federal minister said that challenges like current account deficit, inclusion of Pakistan in Grey List by Financial Action Task Force and various others were inherited to the present regime but now scenario is being changed rapidly. Government made foreign exchange reserves stronger. International institutions made Pakistan’s rating better. He said that WHO has included Pakistan in those seven countries who protected their economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that government has paid electricity bills of over 3 million businessmen/traders for three months during COVID-19. Government presented tax-free budget and relief packages for construction industry. He said that government has complied with 21 conditions of FATF out of 27 while others will be met soon.

Hammad Azhar said that 13 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are being established in Punjab while already established SEZs are being upgraded. He said that facility of zero rated to five sectors had been abolished. The benefits would be transferred directly to the exports proceedings from the next year.

The minister said that Chambers and Associations would be taken on board for skill development. He said that new policy for SMEs would be introduced very soon. Prime Minister has formed National Coordination Committee (NCC) to facilitate the SMEs. He said that Ease of Doing Business recorded 28 points betterment during the first year of present regime.

He informed the house that government has ended the peak hours for electricity consumption and Prime Minister has given a vast package to the industry for electricity consumption.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah said that LCCI really appreciates the recent initiative of the federal government of giving a remarkable electricity relief package to the small industries in which the additional electricity is being provided at 50% subsidized rates. This would really help our small businesses to revive their operations and enhance their competitiveness.

He said that due to the prudent policies of the government, the process of economic revival has begun. The Large Scale Manufacturing Industries, which showed a negative growth rate of 7.78% in 2019-20, has shown a positive growth rate of 4.8% in first quarter of the current fiscal year and 7.65% in the month of September 2020.

The LCCI president applauded the introduction of Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy by Ministry of Industries and Production. He said that this step would help in enhancing the manufacturing base of our country especially in the field of hi-tech products.

Mian Tariq Misbah said that the cost of land for the business community in the Industrial Estates has reached to exorbitantly high levels. There is need for a simple lease policy through which the land in the existing/new Industrial Estates can be provided at reasonable rates on long term lease.

“It has also been learnt that government is planning to increase the gas tariff for industry. This would enhance the cost of doing business for the industry and affect its competitiveness. Gas tariff for industry should be kept at a reasonable level besides ensuring its availability in the winter season”, the LCCI president added. He said there is a need for upgradation of existing Testing Laboratories to bring them at par with international standards for serving the needs of the industry.

Mian Tariq Misbah said that LCCI has always advocated for the development of EPZs throughout the country, especially for technology intensive industries like engineering goods, pharmaceutical products, surgical instruments and sports goods etc. The EPZs should be equipped with latest facilities like combined water treatment plants, certification labs, one window facilitation and solid waste management etc.

“We have already discussed with the Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue that the incentives which are currently available to the five zero rated sectors should also be provided to other sectors of the economy e.g. pharmaceuticals, rice, halal meat, engineering etc.”, he said.

The LCCI president said that skill development is an area which needs the urgent attention. We recommend that government should establish industry-led Skills Councils to help seek the input of private sector in design and management of skill development programs.

He said that SMEs in Pakistan, particularly in the engineering sector have not been able to contribute in the exports of Pakistan due to limitations in access to technology. This issue also needs immediate attention of the ministry.

Senior Vice President Muhammad Nasir Hameed Khan said that custom and regulatory duty on those items should be abolished or reduced on those items that are not being produced locally. He also called for uniformity in WASA water charges.

LCCI Senior Vice President Muhammad Nasir Hameed Khan and Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry also highlighted the issues being faced by the business community.

PR adds from Gujranwala: Federal Minister for Industries and Production Muhammad Hammad Azhar has said that that government has got the country’s economy back on track by making better decisions in difficult times. He said present government has offered a historic package for the industrialists and resultantly a large number of industries in the country have started working again which were closed earlier.

He expressed these views while addressing the members of Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The meeting was chaired by Umar Ashraf Mughal, president of the Chamber. Senior vice president Muhammad Ajmal Awan, vice president Sheikh Qaiser Amin, members of the Executive Committee, former presidents Akhlaq Ahmed Butt, Saeed Ahmed Taj, Malik Zaheer ul Haq, Rana Shehzad Hafeez, Khawaja Khalid Hassan, Khawaja Tahir Hassan, Noman Salahuddin, Mian Umar Saleem and others participated in meeting. Federal minister urged the business community to make efforts for introducing the local products in international markets, adding that government is ready to cooperate with businessmen in this regard. He added that the government was still coming up with new reforms to further improve the country’s industry and concerns raised by the Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce & Industry would be addressed on priority basis on the recommendation of the Chamber. Minister further said a special meeting of Gujranwala industrialists with PM Pakistan will be scheduled for approval of a university and a motorway link to Gujranwala. He said the government should meet the needs of this industrial city on priority basis.